11 Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

Best Meals to Eat Before a Workout According to a Certified Nutrition Coach

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: March 1, 2023

You’ve got the workout routine down. Now it’s time to figure out your pre-workout meal.

But what and when you should eat before your workout is not always straightforward. And the best foods for you depend on your fitness goals.

That’s why I will share my 11 best pre-workout meals for weight loss and muscle gain. So you can optimize your nutrition and get the most out of your training sessions.

Pre Workout Meal

Pre-Workout Meal Defined

When we think of meals, we sometimes picture cooking, sitting down to eat, and cleaning up afterward. But a pre-workout meal doesn’t have to be a formal affair.

Instead, any nutrients you put in your body count as a meal. From a fully prepared traditional meal to something as simple as a shake or smoothie.

Another point to clarify, pre-workout refers to a window of time leading up to a resistance training session. And that could be anywhere from 2 hours to 30 minutes before you actually exercise.

Why Is The Pre-Workout Meal Important?

Eating before your workout fuels intense training while setting the stage for recovery and growth.

Also, the kind of food you eat dictates your metabolic state. And that affects the fat and carbs you burn while you work out.

So let’s look at different types of foods in terms of macronutrients.

Protein for Building

Whatever your goal, getting some protein in before your workout is almost always a good idea.

The reason is that your body uses amino acids during intense training. And if they’re not readily available from your diet, your body will break down your muscles to get them.

Therefore, eating protein before a workout is the best defense against losing muscle.

Free Protein Intake Calculator

Carbs for High Energy

Carbs are your body’s preferred energy source for high-intensity anaerobic workouts like weight lifting. So it’s no mystery why pre-workout carbs are beneficial for muscle building.

But that doesn’t mean you should always eat carbs before the gym. On the contrary, you should keep carbs to a minimum if your goal is fat burning because your body will burn more fat when carbs are not immediately available.

Related: 5 Benefits of Carb Cycling

Fat for Slow-Burning Energy

Dietary fat is another potential energy source for workouts. And you can bump up your fat intake with a low-carb meal for a fat-burning workout.

But it would be best to consume fat in moderation with a high-carb meal before a muscle-building workout.

Pre Workout Meal Fat Loss Muscle Gain

Key Points

  • A pre-workout meal doesn’t have to be large or time-consuming
  • Eat your pre-workout meal between 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to training depending on your schedule and meal size
  • Always include an adequate amount of protein!
  • Remember low carbs for fat loss and high carbs for muscle gain

Best Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

Now let’s look at an overview of some meals you could use before your workouts. And in the next section, I’ll provide more details for each meal below.

Here’s a list of simple pre-workout meal ideas:

  1. Protein Oatmeal & Honey
  2. Blueberry Banana Smoothie
  3. Rice Cake Peanut Butter & Jelly
  4. Home Style Protein Pancakes
  5. Ground Turkey & Sweet Potatoes
  6. Veggie Omelet
  7. Protein Coffee
  8. Jet Fuel Protein Shake
  9. Steak & Eggs
  10. Jacked Green Tea
  11. Natural Nuts & Seeds

Pre-Workout Meal For Muscle Gain

The best muscle gain meals are high carbs and high protein. Therefore, I recommend eating this meal 1 to 2 hours before your workout. That way, the carbs are broken down into glucose which you can burn for energy during your workout.

1. Protein Oatmeal & Honey

Protein oatmeal (proats) is an excellent combination of slow-digesting carbs and fast-digesting protein. Perfect for supplying amino acids now and carbs throughout your workout.

Plus, stirring in a bit of honey gives you an added boost of flavor and energy to get you out the door. And the best part is, this meal takes just 3 minutes to prepare!

Click Here For This Proats Recipe

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2. Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Another quick and easy pre-workout meal is a smoothie. And this blueberry and banana combo provides carbs while packing a potent punch of vitamins and minerals.

Add a scoop of your favorite protein powder to up the protein.

More Simple Weight Gain Shakes & Smoothies

3. Rice Cake Peanut Butter & Jelly

Ditch the bread and replace it with rice cakes. Then spread natural peanut butter and jelly on top. And serve with a protein shake.

Consider it a new twist on an old classic. It doesn’t get much easier than this.

5 Rice Cake With Peanut Butter Recipe Ideas

4. Home Style Protein Pancakes

Did I say it doesn’t get easier? I spoke too soon.

How about having protein pancakes delivered to your door courtesy of Icon Meals? All you have to do is pop them in the microwave and enjoy!

5. Ground Turkey & Sweet Potatoes

All of the recipes so far take only a few minutes to prepare. This recipe takes a little more prep time, but you can still have your pre-workout meal ready in 20 minutes or less.

Start by sauteeing the ground turkey and seasoning it to your liking. At the same time, bake a large sweet potato in the microwave.

After cooking, I like mashing the sweet potato and mixing it with the ground turkey. But you can serve them separately if you like.

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Pre-Workout Meal For Weight Loss

For fat loss, pre-workout meals should be low in carbs and high in protein. Since you don’t have to digest carbs, you can eat this meal 30 to 60 minutes before your workout.

6. Veggie Omelet

Eggs have been called the perfect protein. One reason is the high bioavailability, meaning more protein gets absorbed.

You’ll prepare an omelet using only half the yolks for this recipe. Then add chopped peppers and shredded cheese.

7. Protein Coffee

If you’re a caffeine junkie, protein coffee is a great way to get your fix while fueling your body. Icon Meals’ protein coffee powder includes a nootropic to help you focus.

Add 1-1.5 tablespoons of coconut oil (or MCT oil) to round out your macros for an excellent low-carb pre-workout meal.

Related: Best Protein Coffee Creamer Comparison

pre-workout meal protein coffee

8. Jet Fuel Protein Shake

Try this shake if you’re not into coffee or want to reduce the stimulants. All you need is a scoop of your favorite protein powder and a squirt of MCT oil.

MCT oil is a fast-absorbing form of dietary fat that gives you a natural energy shot. And the protein spares your muscles during your workout.

9. Steak & Eggs

Are shakes and smoothies not your thing? Then you can’t go wrong with gooold-fashioneded steak and eggs. For this recipe, I recommend using whole eggs and a leaner cut of steak.

Or you can choose your ingredients and order this meal pre-cooked from Icon’s Custom Meals page.

10. Jacked Green Tea

While tea may not sound like much of a meal, this recipe combines it with unflavored protein powder and MCT oil to really jack it up.

In addition, the EGCG compound found in green tea has been shown to increase fat burning. That means this is one potent pre-workout concoction.

11. Natural Nuts & Seeds

So far, most of these recipes only require a few minutes to prep. But if you want something you can just grab and go, reach for a handful of nuts or seeds.

Some of the most nutritious are almonds, walnuts, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

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Get personalized pre-workout meals designed specifically for your body and lifestyle. Including custom recipes formulated to fit your macros and calories – no counting required!

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Pre-Workout Meal FAQ

The meal ideas above are a good starting point to get you fueled up for your workouts. But you might still have some questions about the pre-workout meal. So I will answer the most common queries next.

Do you need a pre-workout meal?

A pre-workout meal is not mandatory. Instead, what’s most important is that you hit your daily targets for calories and macros.

For muscle gain, you first must ensure you’re in a calorie surplus and getting enough total protein. Similarly, fat loss requires a calorie deficit.

Once the big picture is nailed down, a pre-workout meal simply helps you optimize your performance and results.

Is it OK to workout on an empty stomach?

Sometimes, working out on an empty stomach can be beneficial. For example, fasted cardio is an excellent way to ensure your body taps into stored body fat for energy.

However, working out without a pre-workout meal is generally not ideal if your goal is to maximize muscle gain due to the catabolic processes initiated by exercise.

Is peanut butter a good pre-workout meal?

Peanut butter is a nutrient-dense food packed with fats and modest amounts of protein and carbs. However, it doesn’t contain enough protein or carbs to make it a suitable stand-alone pre-workout meal.

Instead, adding a little peanut butter to a high-protein meal or smoothie would be better.

What not to eat before a workout?

Something isn’t always better than nothing when it comes to pre-workout nutrition. For instance, downing soft drinks or fast food before hitting the gym definitely isn’t a good idea.

High-glycemic sugars are mostly digested and gone by the time you begin your workout. And greasy/fatty foods will make you feel tired and sluggish.

Related: Dirty Bulk vs Clean Bulk Results

Post-Workout Meal

The post-workout meal is even more important than the pre-workout meal. And it optimizing your “anabolic window” requires a slightly different nutritional strategy.

So make sure you check out my next article on the 6 Best Post-Workout Meal Ideas!

With this information, you’re well on your way to getting better results through eating right. Feel free to continue learning with some of this additional fitness-related content below.

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By |March 1, 2023|Nutrition|Comments Off on 11 Best Pre-Workout Meal Ideas For Fat Loss & Muscle Gain
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